Luiz midfield option a qualified success for PSG
18 February 2015, 15:02
Paris - Paris St Germain coach Laurent Blanc's decision to field David Luiz in an unusual midfield position largely paid off on Tuesday in their 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie.
It was when he went back into the defence that PSG suffered.
PSG fell behind in the 36th minute after Branislav Ivanovic escaped from Luiz's attention to head Chelsea in front, but Edinson Cavani levelled early in the second half as the hosts played higher up the pitch.
The Brazil international had no problem imposing himself on the game either, with muscular challenges on Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa among others as well as having the audacity to wipe out the vanishing spray line before Zlatan Ibrahimovic took a first-half free kick, moving it a short distance to the left.
He also delivered some long accurate pin-point passes from his holding role and seemed to thoroughly enjoy playing against his old team.
PSG beat Chelsea 3-1 in Paris in the last eight last April -- when one of their goals was an own goal from Luiz -- before losing 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to go out on the away goals rule.
A few months later Luiz was out of Chelsea too, moving to PSG for a staggering 50 million pound ($76.87 million) fee which helped fund the acquisitions of Fabregas and Costa.
Blanc, often criticised for his lack of tactical sense when France, then PSG coach, faced a barrage of injuries before the game and it prompted him to shuffle his cards.
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With holding midfielders Thiago Motta and Yohan Cabaye ruled out injured, Blanc decided to field Luiz instead of the less experienced Adrien Rabiot, while Marquinhos paired up with fellow Brazilian Thiago Silva in central defence.
"It was a great idea. In my humble opinion, he is better here than in central defence, where he sometimes lacks concentration," Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard told sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday.
Renard's verdict was spot on as Luiz was indeed not perfect -- letting Ivanovic run off of him in the box to score Chelsea's goal after Gary Cahill had cleverly flicked John Terry's free kick into his path.
Luiz played conservatively in the first half, close to the central defence, before bringing the ball forward after the break.
He may not get a chance to shine in this position for the return leg, however, as Cabaye could be fit after a foot injury for the trip to Stamford Bridge, where PSG believe they will have their chances.
"We still have a 50 per cent chance of progressing, especially if we play like we did tonight," said Thiago Silva.